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Port of Missing Girls

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Port of Missing Girls

Published 1938

A misogynistic sea captain (Harry Carey) learns that a woman on the lam has stowed away on his ship.

Run time 62 minutes 29 seconds
Production Company Monogram Pictures
Audio/Visual sound, black & white


Reviewer: WINSTON SMITH3353 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 5, 2013
Subject: Great Movie
The Set Up:
Night club singer Della Mason (Judith Allen) witnesses a mob hit and stows away on a tramp steamer headed for the Far East to avoid both the cops and the mob’s witness elimination program. Gruff Captain Joe Storm (Harry Carey, Sr.) of said ship, although a self-proclaimed misogynist due to wifey abandonment issues of long ago, is reluctantly convinced by his radioman (young Milburn Stone who thirty years later played “Doc” on TV’s Gunsmoke) not to feed the pretty Ms. Mason to the wolves, but to keep her safely aboard until they can deposit her somewhere abroad and out of harm’s way. The captain knows of such a place – Big Minnie’s International House of Funcakes -- a one-stop live adult entertainment center in a lawless Asian harbor (aka The Port of Missing Girls) for thirsty wharf rats, wayward sailors, horny businessmen, spies, revolutionaries, government agents, and curious tourists alike. But this housing arrangement initially discomfits the smitten radioman, who like all fine young men in 1938 with a healthy double standard, has every intention of nailing a virgin bride.

And Away They Go: Gun smuggling, treachery, revolution, attempted rape, slaughter of the yellow horde, a sympathetic Madame, an underlying love story, insinuations of moral abandonment among the dames, and a happy ending. What more could you ask for? Did I mention the dames?

The 512Kb MPEG4 download provides a print which is a little beat up in the beginning and the sound is kinda scratchy in many places, but the story and acting make up for it. By the time Ms. Mason, aka refugee Mary Smith, shakes the mob and stows away aboard ship, you’ll not be noticing these technical defects. I enjoyed the Steinbeckian/Saroyan approach to the characters -- especially been-there-done-that Madame Minnie (Jane Jones) and her bevy of whores with hearts – in that there is an assumption of underlying good in almost everybody, even misogynist sea captains, intellectual revolutionary generals, and international fugitives-cum-prostitutes. This film would’ve been so much more interesting if it weren’t shackled by the 1932 Motion Picture Production Code of Hollywood self-censorship, but if you listen closely you will hear a different code, especially in the 3 songs sung in Minnie’s. Like most Hollywood productions after the inauguration of the MPPC, double entendres and fascinating euphemisms abound and are fun to pick out.

This is a remake of the 1928 silent film by the same name, which I’ve never seen, but now really want to. The 1928 film’s screenplay was written by the original author of the story, Howard Estabrook, whereas the 1938 screenplay was re-worked and listed as “original screenplay by Karl Brown,” according to IMDB. Maybe the 1938 screenplay is very different from the 1928 pre-Production Code screenplay? I'm dying to find out. I think stories are much better told on film if the original story author is allowed to write the screenplay as well, as in the case of the original 1928 Port of Missing Girls. And it will be very interesting to see how Minnie’s little house of pleasure is depicted without being hobbled by the Hayes Office censorship under the Motion Picture Production Code. I hope the 1928 version shows up on Internet Archive soon.

This film is based on the original story by veteran Hollywood jack-of-all-trades Howard Estabrook, born Howard Bolles (1884, Detroit, Michigan – 1978, Woodland Hills, CA). He entered show business as a stage actor in New York in 1904, appeared in several films starting in 1914 and even directed a few in 1917. He left films for a career in the business world, but returned to Hollywood in 1921, landed executive positions with various studios, then began producing films in 1924.

1938 "original" (?) screen play by Karl Brown.

Directed by Karl Brown.

Filmed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Pedro Bay, California.

•Harry Carey, Sr., as Captain Josiah Storm
•Judith Allen as Della Mason
•Milburn Stone as Jim Benton
•Betty Compson as Chicago
•Matty Fain as Duke Ransom
•George Cleveland as Clinton
•Jane Jones as Minnie
•Willy Castello as Manuel
•Snowflake as Misery

I became a Harry Carey, Sr. fan because of this film.

A Coupla Things That Especially Date This Film: The part of Misery, a kind of Step ’n Fetchit-style ship’s cook, is played by a black actor billed as “Snowflake.” One of the bad guys’ names, Manuel, is pronounced throughout the film in the old Anglo-American accent as “Man-you-ell.” Some of our modern cultural changes are definitely improvements.
Reviewer: Dr Feel Rotten - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 22, 2010
Subject: I liked it
Some of the lines were good as well and Harry Carey was pretty good especially with "Keep your eyes open, your mouth shut and you might learn something before you..die.." although "Jim" sounded like he was auditioning to do a hemorrhoid ointment commercial. I do admit that line did sound like he hesitated a hair, but still done OK none the less because people DO hesitate in real life. Bits of the plot were predictable, but so what? So many of the plots here are and they get rave reviews. I thought at a point that we would learn that Della was the captain's real long lost daughter so it did have some suspense to it. Like almost every other movie here it fell apart at the last minute, but that seems to be Hollywood saying, "We're to cheap to pay for the extra film to actually do it right."
I still liked this movie and to those who don't..tough junkers. Go watch a hemorrhoid commercial.
Reviewer: billbarstad - favoritefavorite - October 1, 2010
Subject: Can't Recommend It
Aside from the gunman in the first act, an unintentional caricature that gave me a couple of laughs, this predictable movie features tired plot devices strung together, forgettable leads, as well as more poor character actors other than the gunman, with a few musical numbers mixed in, not all of which are bad.

I downloaded the 328MB AVI file. Images are fuzzy, and trails appear during movement, but the audio is clear.
Reviewer: kareneliot - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 20, 2010
Subject: Pretty good
I found it enjoyable and it kept my interest until the end.
Reviewer: accalaurie49 - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 8, 2010
Subject: Woman aboard a ship causing trouble
Everything you expect of a story about a merchant vessel at sea: a tough captain with a kind heart, dangerous harbours with dubious inhabitants, some of them with their hearts "on the right place", some not, women causing trouble, and so on and on.

I am not sure from which film I know Harry Carey but Milburn Stone is "Doc Adams" of "Gunsmoke". Both do a good job here.
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